Vodafone to reintroduce roaming fees for UK customers in Europe

10 Aug 2021

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The measure will apply to new and upgrading customers but will exclude travel in Ireland.

Vodafone has become the latest carrier to reintroduce roaming fees for UK mobile customers travelling in the EU.

Anyone in the UK who signs up to a Vodafone monthly mobile plan or upgrades to such a plan after 11 August will face the charges from 6 January 2022, with the precise cost varying by plan.

Standard bill-pay customers can buy a ‘roaming pass’ for one day for £1, eight days for £8, or 15 days for £15. Existing customers will not be impacted by these changes while they remain on their current price plan, the company said.

BT-owned EE took the same step in June, reneging on an earlier pledge not to charge for roaming. Like EE, Vodafone is excluding travel in Ireland from the charges.

Vodafone’s fees will also not apply to those signed up to specific ‘Xtra’ price plans that include roaming. The company also said that there would be “no unexpectedly high bills” for customers, promising that users would know “exactly what you’re paying in advance” and have the option to set spending limits.

Announcing the move, Vodafone UK CEO Ahmed Essam billed it as a “fairer way” to charge for roaming.

“The majority of our customers are not regular roamers. Indeed, fewer than half our customers roamed beyond the Republic of Ireland in 2019,” he said. “And the reality is that including roaming – a service that costs us money to provide – in every plan means more than half of our customers are paying for something that they don’t use.

“Changing the way we offer roaming to our customers will enable us to continue investing in our network to the benefit of our customers.”

Roaming fees were scrapped across the EU beginning in June 2017. With Brexit finally coming into force in early 2020, it was not then clear how this would affect UK customers.

The UK’s two other largest operators, O2 and Three, have not brought back flat roaming fees. Both, however, have introduced ‘fair usage’ caps, beyond which customers are charged.

O2 users who go over 25GB per month of data usage while in Europe must pay £3.50 per GB. Three’s cap is 12GB per month.

The move to reintroduce European roaming fees comes after Vodafone’s quarterly financial report on 23 July noted that, while the company’s roaming revenue had grown 56pc compared with the same period in 2020, it was still 54pc lower than the same period in 2019, pre-pandemic. Roaming is a major source of income for Vodafone, like many mobile operators.

Jack Kennedy is a freelance journalist based in Dublin